Sunday, January 30, 2011

House Church - Teaching

Teaching is an interesting topic when it comes to the church.  There are many questions involved such as who?, when?, where?, what?, how?, and why?  I admit that I don't have all the answers to these, and I certainly don't intend to try to answer them in a single blog post.
Instead, I'd like to take a brief look at elders teaching, gifted people teaching, and everyone teaching.  I'll close by discussing what teaching is and should look like.

First, what abut elders?  Do they teach?  Should they teach?

In I Timothy 3:2, as Paul discusses characteristics of overseers, he says that they must be "able to teach."  This at least implies that overseers/elders will teach within the life of the church.  Of course this could take on different forms in different places, but we can safely conclude that one of the duties of elders is to teach the body.  We've already said that elders' main responsibility is coming alongside others and helping them mature in Christ.  There is certainly a teaching aspect to this.

Second, what about those gifted in teaching?

Romans 12:6-8 says, "Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness." (emphasis mine)

It's clear that some members of the body are gifted in teaching.  Why?  As with all spiritual gifts, the purpose is to exercise them in love for the good of the entire church family.

How does this work?  In the life of the church, everyone should use his or her gifts to edify others.  Those gifted in teaching will likely find that teaching comes somewhat easily to them; others will also probably tell them that they are good at teaching.  The gifted person should therefore make an effort to use this gift on a regular basis to encourage others.  This will certainly look different in various times, places, and types of gatherings. The goal, however, is always the same - edification.

Is teaching within the church restricted?  Are only the elders and the gifted allowed/supposed to teach?  The answer is a resounding "NO."

Paul writes the following verses to help our understanding:

"I myself am satisfied about you, my brothers, that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge and able to instruct one another." Romans 15:14  (emphasis mine)

"Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God." Colossians 3:16  (emphasis mine)

Paul's words are striking for their clarity.  Part of the one-anothering that goes on in church life involves instructing/teaching each other.  This restricts teaching to no one, and instead tells all followers of Christ that they have the joyful responsibility of instructing one another.  Again, the purpose is the spiritual maturity of the church as a whole.

But what about women?  Can they teach?  In light of the above verses, my answer is not only that women can teach but they should teach.  I don't believe women should take on a bible teaching role toward men, but there remains much teaching they can do.  For example, we men can learn a great deal from watching the godly, serving lives of the women in the church body.

That leads to my final topic.  What does teaching look like?  We make a mistake if we only think of teaching as one-way or even multiple-way instruction about what the bible says.  The photo at the top of this post shows one example of teaching, but this is hardly the only method to use.

As we look at the life of Christ, He sometimes taught just verbally.  The Sermon on the Mount is a great example of this.  However, Jesus frequently taught by doing.  He served others with His disciples present, and then basically told them to do the same.  The John 13 passage illustrates this for us:

John 13:3-5, 12-17, "Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples' feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him...When he had washed their feet and put on his outer garments and resumed his place, he said to them, 'Do you understand what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you. Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.'"

Teaching, then, ought to be more than just verbal instruction.  Teaching is most effective when it is experienced.  Therefore, in the life of the church we best teach and are taught through both hearing and doing. To follow the model set forth by our Lord, we teach and learn through service to others.

We all have much to learn from one another.  In the church we all need one another.  Let us all strive to teach as the Lord leads so that we may all communally grow closer to Him.


Norma Hill - aka penandpapermama said...

Your post just reminded me of something I've wondered about often.

It seems to be quite commonly accepted that men teach men (along with women and children in group settings), and women teach women and children.

Of course children include boys, who eventually become men (at what age?). It also seems that boys tend to "leave the church" earlier and in greater numbers than girls. Makes me wonder if men should be doing a lot more teaching "little men" (in words and in action) from the very start, instead of waiting for them to become grown men?

(I'd also suggest that this situation is as true - perhaps even more so - in a large majority of "Christian families" as in "churches." Moms being left pretty much in charge of the spiritual development of the sons and daughters both... and then we wonder why we have "problems" down the line...)

Eric said...


You make a good point.

As usual, the farther we move from the biblical model, the more problems we have. Fathers must take the role of spiritual head and disciple everyone else in the family.

As the church gathers, all the fathers should disciple all the boys.

If the fathers leave it all to the mothers, they are abdicating their God-given roles. As you said, this often leads to males simply leaving the church.

Aussie John said...


It took me a long time to brush away the cobwebs of traditional compartmentalizing of how we handle this matter edification.

Every part of the Body, is involved in edification on a daily basis, whether verbal or otherwise, whether in an organized setting or casual, we are edifying others, either for good or bad, as we live our daily life.

We need to be very careful that we don't think of edification as being restricted to when the Body gathers.

We need to be careful that making disciples and mutual edification are never understood as two different aspects of Christian living.

Eric said...


Amen to that.

Jeremy Myers said...

I would love to see action follow teaching, but it is so rare. In one church I pastored, I proposed taking every other week off from our singing-sermon service tradition to put into practice in our community what we learned from the previous week.

The idea did not go over well...

As I work toward starting a community of people who will follow Jesus into the world, putting what we have learned into action will be one of our core practices.

Eric said...


I thought about doing something like that where I pastored, too. I never had the guts to do it. I knew,as you said, it would not go over well.

I agree with you that action must follow teaching. That's where the proverbial rubber meets the road.

sammyze said...

I have a friend who is part of a house church. They do meet together for singing/ teaching 3 Sundays and serve together elsewhere one Sunday a month. It can be done. :-)